The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the market for two or even three memorable events in 2011 or 2112.
“We were asked about the order of our priorities,” Maple Leafs CEO Richard Peddie said in an interview. “We see it as an outdoor game first, an all-star game second and an entry draft third.”
Peddie said the new emphasis on landing big events was built around facility overhauls. Included in those are a hotel and sports bar at Maple Leafs Square, the gargantuan video screen already up and running at Air Canada Centre and the changeover from artificial turf to natural grass at BMO Field.
“Without the bubble that was in use through the winter at BMO Field we were free to host an outdoor game,” he said. “We think we are the right city for the event with the right fan base.”
There have been two outdoor NHL games, one in Edmonton and one in Chicago. Another contest is set for this winter at Fenway Park in Boston. Not only does it offer a stunning backdrop, BMO Field boasts an abundance of outbuildings that would make the event more comfortable for fans.
“We think an outdoor game would be special, so Canadian, almost like playing on a pond,” Peddie said. “It would put the Toronto Maple Leafs on the map in a way no other event could.”
Peddie said that MLSE is in the process of formally applying for the events. Once the home of the NHL draft, Toronto hasn’t hosted the event since 2002. The city has not welcomed fans to an all-star game since 2000.
Maple Leafs officials Tuesday guided NHL president Gary Bettman through improvements at Air Canada Centre including the Bremner Street atrium, the new television studio, new high definition screens that line concourses and public areas at Air Canada Centre as well as the Leafs’ practice site, the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
“Gary’s remark was that it was very impressive, very visionary,” Peddie said.
Peddie said he expected to hear word about one or two of the applications within the next couple weeks. News on the outdoor game, he said, would take longer.